Don’t blame Boehner; he just works there

DON’T BLAME BOEHNER; HE JUST WORKS THERE…. President Obama hosted a meeting at the White House with the leadership of both parties, from both chambers, and the discussion reportedly turned to Bush’s tax cuts. GOP leaders want all the cuts to remain in place, no matter how many billions of dollars it adds to the deficit. The president wants to keep the cuts for everyone except the very wealthy.

By all accounts, the chat wasn’t especially constructive, but I was glad to see this exchange took place.

Mr. Obama, who did not join the Senate until 2005, reminded Mr. Boehner and the Senate Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, that the tax cuts’ architects purposely left the deficit problem to a future administration, according to aides from both parties.

“I wasn’t there,” Mr. Boehner quickly countered. “I didn’t structure that deal.”

The room briefly went quiet as participants seemed to ponder that statement from a legislator first elected in 1990. “How long have you been here?,” a Democrat asked Mr. Boehner, and the others broke out in laughter.

They’re laughing at you, John, not with you.

It’s a telling anecdote. The White House vision is to largely follow the game plan crafted by congressional Republicans less than a decade ago. It was the GOP’s idea — they passed tax cuts, which overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy, and set the cuts to expire at the end of 2010. The point was to obscure the cuts’ cost, play a dangerous budget game, and make it so that the GOP wouldn’t have to pay for their own experiment. We saw the results, which can only fairly be described as “total failure.”

Obama is prepared to do part of what Republicans included in their own plan — letting tax rates for those making more than $250,000 return to the same levels that existed when the economy was strong, as was outlined in the Republican plan of the Bush era. Reminded of whose idea this was in the first place, Boehner, in effect, argued that he has nothing to do with the plan he voted for, and which was crafted by his own caucus.

Indeed, Boehner was, at the time, responsible at the committee level for helping shape the tax-cut package, and was on hand at the White House for the bill-signing ceremony.

No wonder the room broke out in laughter.

As for the substance, Boehner told the president allowing the higher rates to return to pre-Bush levels would be bad for small businesses (small businesses that need some help, which Senate Republicans have blocked). As a policy matter, Boehner’s argument is patently ridiculous, but the fact that he’s pushing it in a private meeting confirms my suspicions — Boehner actually believes his own nonsense, and isn’t quite sharp enough to realize he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

In the meantime, Boehner is also urging Republicans to stop referring to the Bush tax cuts as the Bush tax cuts. GOP members are supposed to fight for the failed former president’s tax policy, but avoid using the failed former president’s name.

They really do think voters are fools.